Tag Archives: Josef Shomperlen Milwaukee Blog

4 robots that aim to teach your kids to code

You’ve seen apps and toys that promise to teach your child to code. Now enter the robots.

At the CES electronics show in January, coding robots came out in force. One convention hall area was packed with everything from chip-embedded, alphabet-like coding blocks to turtle-like tanks that draw on command.

Of course, no one can really say how well these coding bots teach kids, or even whether learning to code is the essential life skill that so many in the tech industry claim. After all, by the time today’s elementary-school kids are entering the workforce, computers may well be programming themselves.

But experts like Jeff Gray, a computer science professor at the University of Alabama and an adviser to the nonprofit coding education group Code.org, say kids can derive other benefits from coding robots and similar toys. They can, for instance, learn “persistence and grit” when the toys inevitably do something unintended, he says.

So if you’re in the market for a coding robot that teaches and maybe even entertains, here’s a look at four that were on display at CES. But beware: None of them are cheap.

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CUBETTO

London-based Primo Toys, the makers of this mobile wooden block, believes kids can learn coding concepts at age 3 before they can even read. And they don’t even need a screen.

The “Cubetto” block on wheels responds to where chip-embedded pieces are put on a wooden board. Different colors represent different commands — for example, to “go straight” or “turn left.”

Kids can bunch together a number of commands into what’s called a function and can also make Cubetto repeat actions in a loop.

Pros: Good for parents who want to avoid more screens

Cons: Doesn’t offer an immediate path to real coding

Price: $226

Shipping: Now

Online: https://www.primotoys.com

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ROOT

Root Robotics’ flattish, hexagonal droid has downward-facing scanners, magnetic wheels, touch-reactive panels, lights, motion sensors, and a pen-grabbing hole in the center of its body.

Controlling it does require a screen.

The Cambridge, Massachusetts, company also claims kids don’t need to be able to read and can start playing with Root at age 4.

Root draws, moves, sees and reacts to touch and various other commands. Kids can use Root to start drawing lines and progress to creating snowflake-like mathematical patterns called fractals.

Co-founder Zee Dubrovsky says his daughter began coding with Root at age 4, and progressed up to the point where her robot drew her name on a whiteboard in school.

Pros: Sturdy frame; kids can progress from graphical block-based codes to text coding

Cons: Requires lots of clean, flat surface area, preferably whiteboards. Root has three difficulty levels, some of which wade into deeper math, so parental time commitment could be considerable. The Kickstarter-launched company has taken a while to ship items, so delivery could be delayed

Price: $199

Shipping: June 2018 (although the company has been working to fulfill Kickstarter orders since May 2017)

Online: http://www.codewithroot.com

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COZMO

This bundle of personality on wheels debuted in 2016. It now comes with an app called Code Lab, which allows kids to drag and drop blocks of code that control its movements and animations. They can even access facial and object recognition functions enabled by Cozmo’s front-facing camera.

Cozmo, recommended for kids aged 8 and up, looks like a little tractor and can pick up interactive cubes, which are included.

Part of its appeal are the twitches and tweets that make it seem like an energetic pet, according to Boris Sofman, the CEO and co-founder of Cozmo maker Anki, based in San Francisco.

Pros: Its expressive eyes and movements make it seem like a little R2-D2

Cons: Because it’s so full of personality, there might be a disconnect between programming it to do things and just letting it be itself

Price: $180

Shipping: Now

Online: https://www.anki.com/en-us/cozmo

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EVO

This dome-shaped, wheeled dynamo about the height of a few fingers looks for direction right out of the box — and comes equipped to follow around any finger placed before its frontal camera.

“We want kids to immediately engage with a robot,” says Nader Hamda, founder and CEO of Evo’s maker, Redondo Beach, California-based Ozobot.

The robot makes sounds, flashes lights, moves and can sense and react to its environment.

An app helps kids — aged 8 and up — program Evo to do what they want. The bot’s downward facing scanners also let it follow lines drawn on regular paper, some of which embody coding instructions. For instance, blue-black-blue gets it to speed up; green-red-green-red tells it to spin.

Pros: It’s cheaper than other coding bots

Cons: It doesn’t do quite as much as other bots

Price: $89

Shipping: Now

Online: https://ozobot.com

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AP Technology Writer Matt O’Brien contributed to this report.

Article source: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/robots-aim-teach-kids-code-53026303

Russian cargo ship docks at International Space Station

An unmanned Russian cargo ship has docked successfully at the International Space Station, delivering a fresh batch of supplies for the crew.

The Russian space agency Roscosmos said the Progress spacecraft moored at the station Thursday in automatic mode, bringing 2.7 metric tons (3 tons) of food, fuel and instruments. It was launched Tuesday from the Russian space complex in Baikonur, Kazakhstan.

The launch initially set for Sunday was postponed at the very last minute due to an unspecified glitch. And instead of the original plan to test a new regime for docking less than four hours after launch, it performed a standard two-day approach maneuver.

There are six astronauts aboard the space station — three Americans, two Russians and one from Japan.

Article source: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/russian-cargo-ship-docks-international-space-station-53106609

Critics wary as Google’s Chrome begins an ad crackdown

On Thursday, Google will begin using its Chrome browser to eradicate ads it deems annoying or otherwise detrimental to users. It just so happens that many of Google’s own most lucrative ads will sail through its new filters.

The move, which Google first floated back in June, is ostensibly aimed at making online advertising more tolerable by flagging sites that run annoying ads such as ones that auto-play video with sound. And it’s using a big hammer: Chrome will start blocking all ads — including Google’s own — on offending sites if they don’t reform themselves.

There’s some irony here, given that Google’s aim is partly to convince people to turn off their own ad-blocking software. These popular browser add-ons deprive publishers (and Google) of revenue by preventing ads from displaying.

Google vice president Rahul Roy-Chowdhury wrote in a blog post that the company aims to keep the web healthy by “filtering out disruptive ad experiences.”

But the company’s motives and methods are both under attack. Along with Facebook, Google dominates the online-advertising market; together they accounted for over 63 percent of the $83 billion spent on U.S. digital ads last year, according to eMarketer. Google is also virtually synonymous with online search, and Chrome is the most popular browser on the web, with a roughly 60 percent market share .

So to critics, Google’s move looks less like a neighborhood cleanup than an assertion of dominance.

Google’s effort focuses on 12 ad formats criticized by a group called the Coalition for Better Ads, whose members include Google, Facebook, News Corp. and the News Media Alliance, which represents 2,000 newspapers in the U.S. and Canada. Among those blackballed formats are pop-ups, large ads that hover above the page and ads that flash with bright background colors.

But those standards were intended to be voluntary, said Paul Boyle, senior vice president of public policy for the newspaper alliance that helped create them. Instead, he said, Google is turning the standards into de facto law.

Critics also note that the standards conspicuously exempt one of Google’s most significant forms of advertising — so-called pre-roll video ads, which run before videos on Google’s YouTube.

Scott Spencer, Google’s director of product management, said via email that the coalition is looking into video ad formats, including pre-roll ads. Any new standards will be incorporated “when the research is complete,” he said.

“Chrome filtering is not favoring our own business, our ads or our platforms, or anyone else’s,” he said.

Accusations of self-dealing have long haunted Google. Last June, European Union regulators hit it with a 2.4 billion euro ($3 billion) fine for unfairly directing search results to its own shopping listings, from which it gets a direct cut of revenue. A similar Federal Trade Commission probe of Google ended in 2013 with a settlement and no fine .

More recently, the News Media Alliance has urged Congress to look at how Google pressures media outlets to put stories in its “Accelerated Mobile Pages” format, which also tightly restricts ad formats and provides Google a new source of revenue in exchange for giving publishers favored treatment in search results.

Google will phase in the restrictions in coming months; disputes will be handled by the coalition, not Google. Users will see a notification when Chrome blocks ads, and can opt to view them if they want.

Website publishers have had months to prepare, yet many are still running afoul of the new standards. According to a recent search of Google’s Ad Experience Report , 1,408 sites had “warning” or “failing” status. Some were targeted to have their ads to be shut down Thursday.

Sites flagged included niche interest sites like www.playstationlifestyle.net and www.bridalguide.com , as well as established newspapers such as The Hamilton Spectator in Canada and a number of porn sites.

Spectator owner TorStar said it has fixed the problem; other sites wouldn’t comment publicly. Atlanta-based Gray Television Inc. also had at least a dozen of its TV station websites flagged. Gray said it switched to compliant formats and that its sites were cleared as of Wednesday.

Google said that almost half of warned sites fixed ad problems after being notified.

Among these were about 50 websites run by Townsquare Media, the third-largest radio station owner in the U.S. The sites ran so-called “prestitial” ads that take over the screen after someone clicks on a link, according to Jared Willig, Townsquare’s senior vice president of digital.

The company subsequently developed a new and less intrusive ad format that solved the problem, Willig said. While he agreed with the push toward fewer distractions, Google’s outsized influence gives him pause.

“They wield a lot of power, which is a little scary,” Willig said. “But in this case, they’re using that power to make the internet better.”

Others were less sanguine.

“Who’s to say what’s a good ad and what’s a bad ad?” asked Chris Pavlovski, the CEO of Rumble Inc., a Toronto-based video platform that considers itself a rival to YouTube. “For some reason, we have an arbitrator that owns a browser and dictates what we can put on our websites.”

Overall, Google wields too much influence over publishers, said Sean Blanchfield, the CEO of PageFair, a startup that helps publishers get around ad blockers.

“Traffic comes through Google Search, users come through Google Chrome, monetization is from Google ads,” Blanchfield said. “Publishers are beginning to feel like they’re playing in a gig economy operated by Google.”

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Follow AP Technology Writer Ryan Nakashima at https://twitter.com/rnakashi

Article source: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/critics-wary-googles-chrome-preps-ad-blocking-crackdown-53089393

Apple’s new speaker making an unwelcome mark in some homes

Apple’s new internet-connected speaker is proving to be more appealing to the ears than to the eyes, depending on where the device is placed.

Some people who bought the just-released $349 speaker, dubbed the HomePod, are reporting that it leaves a white ring on the surfaces of wooden furniture.

In an explanation posted Wednesday, Apple said the problem occurs with speakers that, like the HomePod, are equipped with a silicon base to minimize vibration. The company said the marks will often “go away” after a few days if you move the speaker somewhere else.

If they don’t, it recommends wiping wood tarnished by the HomePod with a soft or damp cloth, or cleaning the surface “with the furniture manufacturer’s recommended cleaning process.”

The marks left by the HomePod threaten to stain Apple’s reputation for designing iPhones, iPads and Mac computers that are frequently prized as much for how they look as for how they work. Though it’s still too early to tell whether the HomePod’s blemishes on wood will dampen the device’s sales. If so, that could hamper Apple’s efforts to catch up to less expensive internet-connected speakers from Amazon and Google that had a head start in the still nascent market.

Both Amazon and Google designed their speakers primarily to serve as digital hubs that manage peoples’ homes and lives via voice-activated assistants. Apple, by contrast, is marketing the HomePod as a high-fidelity speaker programmed to learn listeners’ tastes and automatically select songs from the company’s music-streaming library.

In the process, Apple hopes to build upon its 36 million Apple Music subscribers and to establish a toehold in people’s homes that will give it more opportunities to peddle its services. The HomePod also features Apple’s assistant Siri, which is still catching up to Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s eponymous Assistant in responsiveness and versatility.

Article source: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/apples-speaker-making-unwelcome-mark-homes-53092752

Denied mic, foes of offshore drilling plan hold rallies

With giant inflatable whales, signs that read “Drilling Is Killing,” and chants of “Where’s our meeting?,” opponents of President Donald Trump’s plan to open most of the nation’s coastline to oil and natural gas drilling have held boisterous rallies before public meetings held by the federal government on the topic.

That’s because the public cannot speak to the assembled attendees at the meetings. The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is meeting one-on-one with interested parties, and allows people to comment online, including typing comments on laptops the agency provides. People can also hand BOEM officials written comments to be included in the record.

What they can’t do is get up at a microphone and address the room. That has led drilling opponents on both coasts to hold their own meetings before the official ones begin. The latest will take place Wednesday in Hamilton, New Jersey, just outside the state capitol of Trenton.

“They’re dodging democracy,” said Cindy Zipf, executive director of New Jersey’s Clean Ocean Action environmental group, which will hold a “citizens’ hearing” before the BOEM one begins. “The government works for the people. I understand it’s uncomfortable to have a bad idea and be held accountable for it, but that’s what they’re proposing.”

Trump’s decision last month to open most of the nation’s coast to oil and gas drilling horrified environmentalists, and many elected officials from both parties oppose it. But energy groups and some business organizations support it as a way to become less dependent on foreign energy. An Interior Department official quoted on the BOEM home page announcing the drilling plan praised it as a way for the U.S. to achieve “energy dominance.”

Tracey Blythe Moriarty, a BOEM spokeswoman, said the “open house” format lets people speak directly with agency staff to learn about the drilling proposal, adding, “We find this approach to be more effective than formal oral testimony.”

Many attendees at past meetings disagree.

Environmentalists rallied on the steps of the California state capitol in Sacramento before a BOEM hearing there, citing damage from a 1969 oil rig spill in Santa Barbara and a broken oil pipe in Refugio Beach three years ago. People upset at not being able to speak publicly chanted “Where’s our hearing?”

The agency set up informational displays at its Feb. 8 meeting, including one titled “Why Oil Is Important.”

“Californians have adamantly exposed expansion of oil drilling,” because of its effects on wildlife, oceans and beaches, David Lewis, executive director of Save The Bay in San Francisco, told The Associated Press this week. “So the outcry here against the administration’s outrageous proposal is no surprise.”

Before a Feb. 8 meeting in Tallahassee, Florida, drilling foes invoked the Deepwater Horizon disaster that fouled the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, and said they want to ensure that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s promise to exempt Florida from the drilling plan — the only exception publicly announced — remains in place.

In Oregon, some meeting attendees said BOEM staff were unable to answer their questions about the drilling plan, and were frustrated at being directed to a row of laptops to type out comments.

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Follow Wayne Parry at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC

Article source: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/denied-mic-foes-offshore-drilling-plan-hold-rallies-53069013

Gates turns attention toward poverty, growing inequity in US

Bill and Melinda Gates, as the world’s top philanthropists, are rethinking their work in America as they confront what they consider their unsatisfactory track record on schools, the country’s growing inequity and a president they disagree with more than any other.

In an interview with The Associated Press, the couple said they’re concerned about President Donald Trump’s “America first” worldview. They’ve made known their differences with the president and his party on issues including foreign aid, taxes and protections for immigrant youth in the country illegally.

And they said they’re now digging into the layers of U.S. poverty that they haven’t been deeply involved with at the national level, including employment, race, housing, mental health, incarceration and substance abuse.

“We are not seeing the mobility out of poverty in the same way in the United States as it used to exist,” Melinda Gates said.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is studying these topics with no plans yet for any particular initiatives, though it has done related work at home in Washington state on a much smaller scale. Last year, it funded a grant for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities to look into state and federal policies that can reduce poverty.

Once the world’s richest man, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has marked a decade since transitioning away from the tech giant to focus on philanthropy. He said he’s had two meetings with Trump, where they discussed innovation in education, energy and health — including vaccines, which Trump has voiced skepticism about.

“I got, both times, to talk about the miracle of vaccines and how those are good things,” Bill Gates said.

Melinda Gates, who left her job at Microsoft to raise their three children before turning to the foundation full-time, has lately embraced her role as a public figure more boldly. She called out Trump’s behavior, saying the president has a responsibility to be a good role model when he speaks and tweets, and that his verbal attacks don’t belong in the public discourse.

“You just have to go look in Twitter to see the disparaging comments over and over and over again about women and minorities,” Melinda Gates said. “That’s just not what I believe. It’s not the world that I see.”

Trump has said he’s a counterpuncher who goes after people when they go after him, only 10 times harder.

Taking a more reflective review of their work than in years past, the couple in their annual letter published Tuesday also answered 10 questions critics often ask them. They acknowledge it’s unfair that they have so much wealth and influence but reject the notion that they’re imposing their values on other cultures.

“Behind the scenes, these are the tough, tough questions that people are asking us, and yeah, we have to wrestle with them ourselves,” Melinda Gates said in the Feb. 1 interview.

Since 2000, the Seattle-based private foundation has amassed an endowment worth over $40 billion, which includes a large portion of billionaire investor Warren Buffett’s fortune. The Gates Foundation has given money to various programs in more than 100 countries, as well as in all 50 states and Washington, D.C.

Their approach to giving has shifted the philanthropy world as a whole. They’ve been criticized for prescribing how the money is spent and then expecting tangible proof their investments work.

About 75 percent of the foundation’s resources are dedicated to global health and development. Bill Gates said they’re proudest of their efforts to help eradicate polio and curb the number of child deaths, calling those global health improvements a miracle.

But he concedes the same level of progress didn’t happen in the U.S. with their strategy of chasing equity through education reform. U.S. education initiatives are a distant second funding priority for the foundation, but the $450 million the Gateses spend annually on the issue makes them the top funders of schools reform in America.

They’ve been major supporters of charter schools and also pushed Common Core education standards, teacher evaluation systems that factored in student test scores and a smaller schools model — highly polarizing education policy reforms that didn’t dramatically change student outcomes but made the Gateses deeply unpopular in some communities.

“It’s in taking all of those lessons and saying, ‘OK, but did they reach the majority of the school districts? Did they scale and change the system for low-income and minority kids writ large, at scale?’ And the answer when we looked at it, it was no,” Melinda Gates said.

Christopher Lubienski, an education policy expert who studies philanthropy, said he found the couple’s honesty refreshing but noted their foundation’s overall approach means it will continue to systematically influence education reform.

Lubienski, who said he has not sought nor received money from Gates, also noted that by turning their attention to poverty, the Gateses are tackling the “really big elephant in the room” when it comes to student achievement.

“It’s also a much bigger, more expensive and politically stickier area to attack than simply changing the structure of schools,” Lubienski said.

The Gateses say they’re going in a less prescriptive direction on U.S. education by funding efforts through regional networks of schools, which will lean more heavily on educators at the local level. They also intend to support new curriculum development and charters catering to students with special needs.

The foundation will spend $1.7 billion on education over the next five years, as K-12 will remain their primary focus in the U.S. But as they take stock of the country — from the West Coast’s growing income gap to the generations of racial inequities in the American South — the Gateses say they’re looking at myriad problems that hinder children in the classroom.

“Poverty is like education, where there’s not enough philanthropic resources to take on responsibility, but if you can show how to have a lot more impact, then the policies will benefit from that,” Bill Gates said.

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Follow Sally Ho at twitter.com/—sallyho.

Article source: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/bill-melinda-gates-turn-attention-poverty-america-53039848

Dog-like robot opens door in mesmerizing viral video

“Good boy, Buddy,” is typical praise for a pet, but in this case, Buddy is a well-mannered, four-legged robot that both opens a door and holds it open for another robot.

The video titled, “Hey Buddy, Can You Give me a Hand?” by robotics company Boston Dynamics has gotten over 1 million views on YouTube. It features their latest work — a dog-like robot that opens a door in a mesmerizing maneuver.

PHOTO: In a YouTube video with over a million views, a four-legged robot made by Boston Dynamics opens a door.Boston Dynamics
In a YouTube video with over a million views, a four-legged robot made by Boston Dynamics opens a door.

The video shows one yellow robot walking up to and surveying a door before an identical robot with an arm extending from its back steps into frame.

The arm has a claw that functions as a hand and opens the door.

The robot continues to prop the door open for itself and the other robot to walk through before letting it close behind them.

Boston Dynamics’ calls this robot the SpotMini, which is a smaller version of Spot, another robot they’ve created.

PHOTO: The SpotMini robot made by Boston Dynamics opens a door using an arm attachment in YouTube video.Boston Dynamics
The SpotMini robot made by Boston Dynamics opens a door using an arm attachment in YouTube video.

They describe the SpotMini as “nimble” on their website.

Boston Dynamics claims that the SpotMini can handle objects, climb stairs, and has a 3D vision system.

The SpotMini has an extendable arm, which is used to open doors, in addition to its four legs, and its battery can go for about 90 minutes, according to Bostom Dynamics.

Boston Dynamics did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

Article source: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/dog-robot-opens-door-mesmerizing-viral-video/story?id=53046540

Trump fights releasing details on national monument decision

The U.S. government says it does not have to release documents involving legal arguments for President Donald Trump’s decision to shrink national monuments because they are protected presidential communications.

The Department of Justice made a more detailed request of a federal judge in Idaho last week to dismiss a lawsuit from an environmental law firm, one of several tied to the monument reductions. Forcing the documents to be made public “would disrupt the president’s ability to carry out his constitutional responsibilities,” the filing says.

Justice Department attorneys also said that their release would disrupt the attorney-client relationship between the department’s Office of Legal Counsel and its clients in the executive branch.

The Boise-based firm Advocates for the West sued for 12 documents withheld from a public records request related to Trump’s decision to reduce two sprawling monuments in Utah. He also is considering scaling back other monuments.

The documents written during the Barack Obama and George W. Bush administrations may justify why those former presidents made the monuments as large as they did and thus undercut Trump’s plans to shrink them, the firm said.

“There is no legal authority for what (Trump) did in early December,” said Advocates for the West attorney Todd Tucci. “These 12 documents will eviscerate any argument that his minions have concocted in the last month and a half. That’s why they’re hiding it.”

Previous presidents created national monuments under the 1906 Antiquities Act, which sets guidelines calling for the “smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected.”

Trump has said the monuments to be downsized are much larger than required in the Antiquities Act.

It’s not clear what particular monuments might be mentioned in the documents. Tucci said the timing of the Bush administration document appears to be related to the 2006 designation of a marine monument that includes islands and atolls in Hawaii and a large expanse of ocean. Obama expanded the monument in 2016.

An email to Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Sutton seeking comment on the documents, including whether any were written by the Trump administration, wasn’t immediately returned Tuesday.

The Trump administration is facing other lawsuits from conservation groups, tribes and outdoor retail company Patagonia over the monument reductions. The groups argue that the president exceeded his power and jeopardized protections for irreplaceable archaeological sites and important lands.

Trump said he was reversing federal overreach and acted within his authority. Past presidents have trimmed national monuments 18 times, but there’s never been a court ruling on whether the Antiquities Act also lets them reduce one.

The five separate lawsuits are in the early stages, with attorneys arguing over whether the cases should be handled in Washington, D.C., where they were filed, or moved to Utah at the request of the U.S. government.

Tucci said he doubts those lawsuits will lead to any of the 12 documents becoming public. He said a decision in the Idaho case could happen in May.

John Freemuth, a Boise State University environmental policy professor and public lands expert, said shrinking monuments is as much a political question as a legal question and could have big ramifications however it turns out.

“The big argument is whether the president has the authority to do this and what arguments the president is using,” he said. “It’s kind of in breath-holding mode now.”

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Associated Press writer Brady McCombs in Salt Lake City contributed to this report.

Article source: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/trump-fights-releasing-details-national-monument-decision-53057531

Trump aims for moon, pulls back on space station, telescopes

The Trump administration wants NASA out of the International Space Station by 2025, and private businesses running the place instead.

Under President Donald Trump’s 2019 proposed budget released Monday, U.S. government funding for the space station would end by 2025. The government would set aside $150 million to encourage commercial development and use future savings to aim for the moon.

Many space experts and legislators are expressing concern. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat who rocketed into orbit in 1986, said “turning off the lights and walking away from our sole outpost in space” makes no sense.

Retired NASA historian and Smithsonian curator Roger Launius notes that any such move will affect all the other countries involved in the space station; Russia is a major player, as is Europe, Japan and Canada.

NASA has spent close to $100 billion on the orbiting outpost since the 1990s. The first piece was launched in 1998, and the complex was essentially completed with the retirement of NASA’s space shuttles in 2011.

MIT astronautics professor Dava Newman, who was the deputy NASA chief under Barack Obama, called the space station “the cornerstone of space exploration today” but said the Trump administration’s proposal makes sense because it is doing long-term planning.

The president proposes shifting large chunks of money from the space station, satellites studying a warming Earth and a major space telescope toward a multi-year $10.4 billion exploration plan aimed at returning astronauts to the moon in about five or six years.

“We’re building capability for the eventual human exploration of deep space and the moon is a stepping stone,” NASA’s acting chief financial officer Andrew Hunter said in a Monday news conference.

The president’s budget proposal, including NASA’s portion, was obsolete even before it was made public, but it provides a view into the administration’s priorities. Congress earlier this month passed a spending package that set limits through the end of the next budget year.

The same budget proposal proposes to pull the plug on WFIRST, a space telescope mission that NASA said is “designed to settle essential questions in the areas of dark energy, exoplanets, and infrared astrophysics.”

And for the second straight year, the Trump administration proposes killing five missions that study Earth, especially its climate and the effects of carbon dioxide. The president also plans to end education programs in the space agency.

Private businesses already have a hand in the space station project. The end of the shuttle program prompted NASA to turn over supply runs to the commercial sector. SpaceX and Orbital ATK have been making deliveries since 2012, and Sierra Nevada Corp. will begin making shipments with its crew-less mini shuttles in a few years.

SpaceX and Boeing, meanwhile, are developing crew capsules to fly astronauts to and from the space station within the next year. These commercial flights will represent the first astronaut launches from U.S. soil since NASA’s shuttles stopped flying.

A complete transfer to the commercial sector is a different matter, however. Mike Suffredini, a former space station program manager for NASA who now runs Axiom Space in Houston and aims to establish the world’s first commercial space station cautioned that the U.S. government needs to have a direct hand in the International Space Station until it comes down. No company would accept the liabilities and risks associated with the station, he said, if the sprawling complex went out of control and came crashing down.

His company’s plan is to attach its own compartments to the existing International Space Station and, once the decision is made to dismantle the complex, detach its segment and continue orbiting on its own.

Altogether, the administration’s proposed budget , along with an addendum , seeks to increase NASA’s budget slightly to $19.9 billion.

While the budget plan said it places renewed support on returning humans to the moon, followed by human expeditions to Mars and elsewhere, no precise timeline and few details are provided. The supersize Space Launch System rocket being built by NASA to send astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit — along with its Orion crew capsule — would get $3.7 billion under this budget. A test launch of this system would remain on track for 2020, with a first crewed launch around the moon three years later, according to budget details.

In an agency-wide address, NASA’s acting administrator Robert Lightfoot said it was a “very exciting” budget with lots of potential, despite some hard decisions. Among them: the proposed end of WFIRST, a telescope with 100 times the field of view of the Hubble Space Telescope. WFIRST was a mission that the National Academies of Science listed as the decade’s No. 1 priority for future NASA astrophysics missions.

The WFIRST telescope’s cost estimates have ballooned to $3.6 billion and Hunter said it just got too expensive.

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Borenstein contributed from Washington.

Article source: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/trump-nasa-space-station-2025-businesses-53022817

In their words: Bill and Melinda Gates on Trump, taxes

Bill and Melinda Gates say they’re concerned about some of President Donald Trump’s policies and statements. Here are some excerpts from their recent interview with The Associated Press:

GIVING PLEDGE

Bill Gates says he’s met with Trump twice since he took office. The Microsoft co-founder hasn’t asked Trump to sign “The Giving Pledge,” a movement Gates founded that asks billionaires to commit to donating most of their wealth to charity.

“We’ve never had a direct conversation about that,” Gates said. “It’s always a voluntary thing, and as I do dinners, I meet with a lot of people but never discussed it with him.”

WOMEN, MINORITIES

Melinda Gates, who left her job at Microsoft to raise their three children before turning to the foundation full-time, has lately embraced her role as a public figure more boldly. She called out Trump’s behavior, including what she described as his habit of using Twitter to attack women and minority groups.

“Those kinds of comments just don’t belong in the public discourse,” Melinda Gates said.

TAX OVERHAUL

Bill Gates is among the billionaires who have advocated for more taxes on the wealthy. He says Trump’s tax overhaul mostly benefits corporations.

“We’ve in a broad sense said taxes should be more progressive, and this was not a move toward being more progressive.”

FEMINISM

Melinda Gates says some of Trump’s comments about women have troubled her, but his rejection of the “feminist” label has not.

“Some men have trouble — and some women, quite frankly — have trouble embracing that term and what it means, so that honestly doesn’t bother me. It’s more the specific comments he’s made over and over again about specific people or minorities or women that just do not reflect the values I see across the United States.”

Article source: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/words-bill-melinda-gates-trump-taxes-53039983